Friday, April 11, 2008

Cheesy Eggplant Bake: The Power OF WORDS

Last night was full of good things: warm(ish) weather, the return of The Office and 30 Rock, a solid $4.99 Shiraz from Trader Joe’s, and most of all, the regrettably-named Cheesy Eggplant Bake.

As an ex-English teacher, I’m somewhat aware of the power of language. Only, I don’t think I knew how much it could affect food until Cheesy Eggplant Bake. (P.S. I will be repeating the phrase “Cheesy Eggplant Bake” as many times as possible in the following paragraphs. Because I can!) Cheesy Eggplant Bake is a simple, delicious five-star vegetarian dish from AllRecipes. It should have hundreds of reviews, but alas – only 10 decorate its lonely page. Why, I ask. Why?

Is it the picture? Nope. Stunningly (for AllRecipes, anyway), the accompanying photo makes Cheesy Eggplant Bake look alluringly tasty.

What about the ingredients? Nope. Cheap, plentiful, and way healthy, especially if you have a garden.

Could the similarly-monikered Cheesy Baked Eggplant be hogging all the glory? Er … nuh unh.

It’s gotta be the name. There’s no other explanation for it. Who the crap wants to eat anything named Cheesy Eggplant Bake? You might as well call it Vegetables in a Dish with Stuff on Top, because it would elicit about the same level of temptation. Y’know – let’s put it this way: if Cheesy Eggplant Bake was listed on Epicurious as Deconstructed Ratatouille with Mushrooms and Mozzarella, people would get wind burns in the rush to the kitchen.

But hear this, my lovelies: ignore the name. You gotta try this thing. It’s a winnah, and the servings are HUGE so there's no need to pair them with another food (though pasta could be a good side if needed). And while the AllRecipes version would be totally fine, you can lessen the caloric impact by cutting one tablespoon of olive oil, substituting two egg whites for two whole eggs, and using part-skim shredded mozzarella instead of full-fat slices. (Those directions are below.)

Readers – how ‘bout you? Have you ever had a really great meal with a wildly awful name? Or vice versa? Do tell. (And try the Cheesy Eggplant Bake!)

Cheesy Eggplant Bake
6 servings
Adapted from All Recipes.

1 medium eggplant, peeled
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 egg + 2 egg whites
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 (14.5 ounce) cans stewed tomatoes
6 ounces part skim mozzarella cheese, shredded

1) Slice eggplant crosswise into 1/4-inch rounds. Arrange rounds in a colander in your sink and sprinkle salt all over them. Walk away for half an hour. When finished, "rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towels."

2) While eggplant is sitting, combine bread crumbs, garlic salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl or on a plate. In a separate shallow bowl, whisk eggs. When eggplant is done, douse each slice in the egg mixture. Then dip in the bread crumb mixture to coat. Shake off any excess and/or drippy-ness.

3) In a large skillet, heat 1/2 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Cook a few rounds until browned, about 2 minutes per side. When finished, arrange in 13x9-inch baking dish. Repeat for second batch.

4) Preheat oven to 350°F.

5) Heat last 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add green pepper, onion, and mushrooms. Cook until onion is softening and pepper is crisp/tender, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Top eggplant with mixture. Add tomatoes on top of that, spreading evenly.

6) Cover with tin foil and bake 25 minutes. Remove from oven and take off tin foil. Sprinkle cheese on top and bake another 25 or 30 minutes, until cheese is melted and a little brown. Serve to applause.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
260 calories, 11.2 g fat, $1.41

1 medium eggplant: 110 calories, 0.9 g fat, $1.41
2 teaspoons salt: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
3/4 cup dry bread crumbs: 330 calories, 4.5 g fat, $0.45
1 tablespoon garlic salt: negligible calories and fat, $0.06
1/2 teaspoon pepper: negligible calories and fat, $0.01
1 eggs + 2 egg whites: 108 calories, 5.1 g fat, $0.45
2 tablespoons olive oil: 237 calories, 26.8 g fat, $0.20
1 large green pepper: 33 calories, 0.3 g fat, $0.74
1 medium onion: 46 calories, 0.1 g fat, $0.20
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms: 50 calories, 0.8 g fat, $1.50
2 (14.5 ounce) cans stewed tomatoes: 214 calories, 1.6 g fat, $1.58
6 ounces part skim mozzarella cheese, shredded: 432 calories, 27.1 g fat, $1.83
TOTAL: 1560 calories, 67.2 g fat, $8.45
PER SERVING (TOTAL/6): 260 calories, 11.2 g fat, $1.41

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Jaime said...

Maybe this is me being a wistful lactard, but Cheesy Eggplant Bake sounds really, really good.

LS11 said...

I made this tonight thanks to you! And as I was putting it together, I got a bit skeptical, thinking that it would be bland, but it definitely is one of those greater than the sum of its parts recipes, as when it all came out it was INCREDIBLE. I'm looking forward to lunch tomorrow to eat leftovers!

Kris said...

ls11, that's great! And I, too, was totally skeptical when I first assembled it, wondering if I should add some herbs or something. But yeah - the result was great. Didn't need anything. Who knew?

Stephanie said...

I was thinking the cheesy might sell the family on the eggplant. Can't convince them it is a really wonderful food! I'll have to try this.

Lisa Knight said...

Anything with Cheesy in the title wins me over !!!

Janelle said...

I made this last night. My boyfriend and I ate half the pan in one sitting. LS11 was definitely right about the looking forward to eating leftovers for lunch. =) This recipe has made the repeat/at least once a month dinner staple list.

ami0343 said...

I know this was obviously put a while ago, but I tried it for the first time tonight and my husband and I really loved it! We love eggplant already, but this dish made it seem unhealthy when it really wasn't. Thank you for this and all of your recipes. I'm really enjoying surfing your site and finding new things to make for dinner. The cheap to make factor also helps b/c my hubby and I are still students! :)

Jeff said...

Just made this tonight, my first time ever having cooked with or eaten eggplant, and it was great! Mine did come out a little more watery than I was anticipating, though, I was wondering if I should have drained the stewed tomatoes, as they seemed the culprit in terms of introducing liquid into the dish.

Great mix of flavours, though the eggplant taste seemed very subtle.

Michelle said...

You asked if we have any great recipes with awful namess---one of my favorites from childhood is "Slop." Basically macaroni, hamburger, onion, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, Italian seasonings. Stirred up in a pot and served in a bowl. Yummy

Anonymous said...

My mom used to serve something she called "Skips on Toast". It was creamed tuna with peas on toast. I'd rather go hungry than eat it! ;o)

Laura said...

I also think "Cheesy Eggplant Bake" sounds good. Got it all prepped and ready for dinner tonight. Crumbled a bit of tofu and extra cheese in between the eggplant and veggie layers so we can get some protein and, well, more cheese. Hoping it comes off like ricotta. Also added some fresh italian herbs to the top and zucchini to the veggie mix.

Anonymous said...

Well, a contender for dubious names would be "Ugly Naked Chicken", which I have made several times and we love! I found it in (Recipezaar that was)and essentially it's skinless chicken in soy sauce, honey, rooster sauce--because I can't pronounce Worcestershire sauce-- and lemon juice.

Sharon said...

My vote for an unappealing name is one of our favorite dishes; "Ugly Naked Chicken"! Found on, it's easy, tasty, and lives up to it's name visually!

nikki said...

made this tonight after wanting a good italian eggplant parmesean, it is just what i was looking for! thanks. BTW, heres a disgusting sounding dish my dad learned to make as a mess hall cook in the USMC. It's called S.O.S. which stands for Sh*t on a shingle. its basically a white gravy with dried beef served on toast. Had to share that one! LOL, but it's sooo good.

Anonymous said...

Jami said...........

I made this tonight for the first time....However, I added lasagna strips in center for added flavor as well as some marinara!!! It is absolutely wonderful! I better it will taste even better tomorrow after flavors melt together all night!!! Thanks